Australian signs anti-doping pledge
Despite a successful season on the road for him and his team, Richie Porte (Team Sky), knows all too well that the subject of doping has dominated the headlines in recent weeks. The fallout from Lance Armstrong's USADA case has affected almost every professional team, with Sky no exception, but away from the controversy the Australian is also looking forward to having opportunities for himself in 2013.
"Personally it was a brilliant year. I started well, wining Algarve, and then I slotted into that team which ultimately won the Tour. What more can you, it was just incredible," Porte told Cyclingnews.
Porte was a key member of Sky's Tour squad. Wiggins and a select number of teammates rode almost identical race programmes in the build up to the Tour and picked up wins in Algarve, Paris-Nice, Dauphine before July's major triumph.
"People were questioning Bradley's form the whole year but at the end of the day Sky has a pretty good sports science background and we were all sure of where we were. Personally I wasn't in peak form, my best form was probably in February but we went to the Tour with a clear plan and executed it like clockwork."
It's as yet unclear whether Wiggins will defend his Tour title or target the Giro d'Italia in 2013 but Porte's desire is to ride as part of Wiggin's team, whatever the final programme.
"Whatever Grand tour Bradley is focusing on I think I should be there with him. Also I'm going to have my own opportunities to ride for myself. You learn a lot riding with guys like Bradley and Mick Rogers but I'd like to have some of the pressure too."
"I've not seen the route but for the Tour yet but I know that Brad isn't hell bent on total domination at the Tour. I know he wants to have a go at other races as well. It's a nice dilemma to have, having Chris Froome and Brad in the same team."
Sky's post-season debrief
Porte competes in Sunday's Chrono des Nations, having recently attended Team Sky's season debriefing in London, England. The event was supposed to be a look back at the team's success in 2012 but it was dominated by the need and desire to ask all staff to sign an anti-doping declaration. It's a move that could cost a number of riders and staff their jobs.
"The environment is always good when you get the team together but at the end of the season where we've won basically some of the biggest races you can't hide from what's going on. At a team like ours, where it has a clear anti-doping stance, it had to be a topic of conversation and it was," Porte told Cyclingnews.
"I wouldn't want to be in Dave Brailsford shoes, and it's super stressful for him but cycling is bigger than any individual. It still has a few more body blows to take but I'm sure it will survive."
Each member of staff will go through an interview and screening process before they sign the declaration. Some interviews will be more difficult that others and Porte is aware that some of his closest teammates will face closer scrutiny than he did.
"I've had my interview. This is the thing. For the guys of my generation there isn't much to say on the topic. I came into the sport in 2010 and from what I've seen it's different times. And you do feel sorry for the guys from the generation before because people can change. It's hard to look at this in a positive light and it's on everyone's mind because the sport's dirty washing is being publicly aimed."
While Sky has dominated a number of races this season, they have faced criticism on a number of fronts. They have had to deal with the fallout of the Geert Leinders affair and Michael Barry's admission to doping, which undermined their initial hiring policy. However Porte believes that the squad are sometimes unfairly perceived.
"That's the thing. When you sit in the room with all the Sky riders it's funny to think because it's a friendly environment and we're just guys riding bikes. Maybe on the road it looks a bit intimidating to see a whole team lined up on the front and riding as we did but at the end of the day we get results. I think we're friends with most guys in the peloton and Brad is a gentleman on the road. It's a totally different perception in the peloton to guys watching from the television. There's a human side to it as well."
And Porte understands why it's easy to doubt every performance, every win and every quote.
"I understand that it's hard for some to sit back and watch on TV what's happening but at the end of the day I hope they trust that we're doing it the right way. And I know that even just saying that is going to get me flack but the sport is cleaning up and what's tarnishing us young guys now is the past.
"It's easy to be cynical; with social media everyone has a voice. In some ways that is great and part of the tide of change is coming from the fact everyone has a bit of input. But I don't know how I can be more transparent. Short of having Paul Kimmage around for a sleepover, and even then that's not a guarantee. You have to have faith in the passport and the controls. It's a little unfair that in a lot of respects we're sitting ducks but the sport has itself to blame for that."